Carson and I had a great moment the other day. It was one of the only situations I can think of where my son was physically and emotionally upset, and I was glad.

Let me explain:

Being 5 comes with loving games, and Carson is no exception. He loves the board games we have, and likes to play often. However, he is also (because he is strong-willed? because he is 5?) extremely competetive and does NOT like to lose. We’ve been working regularly over the last year on how to be a good sport, how to act when you win and when you lose. That you can’t always win. That the reason we play is that games are fun–not just that winning is fun.

But this is a long, hard lesson. (Many adults still don’t get it!) So, the other day Carson came to me and asked if I’d play Candyland. (CLASSIC, right?!) I said yes. He led me to the table and said “OK! I’ve got it all set up. We’re ready to play. But I get to go first.” Uh-huh. Suspicious.

“Carson. Did you set up the cards so you’d win?”

My son is not a good liar. Hooray! When he is lying, it looks like he has a ping-pong ball in his mouth, and his lips curl down in a determined moon shape. He shook his head NO. He might have even said “No.” I decided to not pursue the issue at that particular moment and just see what happened. (Trent and I have different strategies. One time he let Carson cheat, then the next game, Trent cheated mercilessly just to give him a taste of his own medicine. The jury’s still out on how successful that was.)

So, Carson and I got our little plastic people all set on the board, and I told Carson he could go first. He started to reach for the unusually neat and tidy stack of cards, when suddenly, I swear it looked like he was seized from the inside by a sharp and searing pain. He clutched his hands into fists and held them to his chest. He straightened his body like a board and fell back on the couch. His face was contorted in a grimace. And he cried out, “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH Okaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!” Then? He started sobbing. Hard. Loudly.

“Okay, okay! I cheated! I just wanted to win!” he choked out as he was crying. “I’m sorry! I just wanted to win! I’m sorry!”

I held him in my arms as he kept crying and crying. And I was sad to hear him sad, but I was smiling. Ok, maybe even giggling a bit, because he is SO drama. But when he calmed down, I told him how proud I was that he told the truth. I told him that feeling in his stomach that hurt when he was lying was the Holy Spirit’s way of reminding Carson what was right and what was wrong, and helped him choose what was right. I told him how wonderful it was that God lives inside his heart and helps him know the difference. I told him that even his dad and I have times when we are doing something wrong and we have a feeling in our gut that tells us it’s wrong. I told him again how proud I was of him for telling the truth.

Because even though he was sad and upset? I was glad. And grateful.